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UNHCR Urges European Nations Not to Deport Iraqis

Two Iraqis mull their future in a European city

The U.N. refugee agency is urging European countries to halt the forcible deportation of Iraqis to their country, where their lives could be at risk. The UNHCR says the Iraqi asylum seekers are in need of international protection.

The U.N. refugee agency says it is very concerned by on-going forced returns of Iraqi citizens from Western European countries. It says the latest deportations occurred September 1st, when a chartered flight with 61 people on board landed at Baghdad airport.

The UNHCR says the passengers were mainly Iraqis who had been residing in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and the United Kingdom. The agency says it has not yet been able to confirm reports that three Iranians were among those on board.

U.N. refugee spokesman, Adrian Edwards says the UNHCR is asking governments not to forcibly return Iraqis to Baghdad, Diyala, Kirkuk, Ninewa and Salah Al-din. He says these areas are dangerous and serious human rights violations are common.

"Our position is that Iraqi asylum applicants originating from these five governorates should benefit from international protection in the form of refugee status under the 1951 Refugee Convention or an alternative form of protection," said Edwards.

"Some of the individuals among the group returned on Wednesday may be destined for safer areas such as the Kurdistan Region Government Region, others may have elected to return voluntarily. Nonetheless of the 11 individuals we were able to interview on arrival some originated from Baghdad and at least one person was a Christian from Mosul, in the Governorate of Ninewa."

Edwards says the security situation in that Governorate remains extremely volatile. He says increased deadly attacks in Baghdad highlight the dangers that exist in the Iraqi capital.

He says asylum seekers who are returned to Iraq run serious risks from indiscriminate threats to life and from violence that disturb public order.

The UNHCR strongly urges European governments to provide Iraqis with protection until the situation in their areas of origin is good enough for them to return home safely.